Sona Movsesian applied to be a production assistant on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show — and ended up becoming his assistant. The San Gabriel Valley native has been a part of the famed comedian’s team beginning with his West Coast stint on NBC, through the live tour that followed his well-documented breakup with the network, and through the move to TBS, his show’s current home. “Honestly, it has not stopped being one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Movsesian says.
A television obsessive, Movsesian says she watches “a staggering amount of television,” adding that she once watched five seasons of Friday Night Lights in a week. When she was a student at USC, Movsesian thought she would work in film. Then she landed an internship at NBC and fell for the small-screen life. From there, she got into the network’s page program and her career path was set.
She never intended to be on camera, but Movsesian has become a familiar face to the Conan audience. She’s the assistant whose fury over a missing coffee mug sparked O’Brien’s interrogation of the show’s staff. Her apartment was the starting point for a Magic Mike XXL girls’ night out that the boss and a camera crew joined. Movsesian’s star turn, though, came last fall when Team Coco headed to Armenia.
Movsesian, who is of Armenian heritage, inspired the episode. “I wish I could take credit and say that I pitched going to Armenia, but it wasn’t me,” she says. “It was Conan.”
Born in Montebello and raised in Hacienda Heights, Movsesian is the daughter of ethnic Armenian parents who immigrated to the United States from Turkey. “It’s not that I’ve been very vocal about being Armenian, but I think when you’re a first-generation Armenian-American, it’s very hard to hide the fact that you’re Armenian,” she says. “I think that Conan just absorbed the fact that I’m very in tune with my culture and I had never been to Armenia.”
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The trip was a big deal for Movsesian, a chance to make an excursion that’s seen as a pilgrimage of sorts for members of the Armenian diaspora. It also was a project that made her a little nervous. She was the only Armenian involved in making the episode and worried that something might inadvertently offend those who share her heritage. “My concern was, what if this thing is a huge disaster and I’m excommunicated from the Armenian community completely?” she says.
That didn’t happen. In fact, the positive reaction was greater than she’d expected. “Now, the amount of Armenians from all over the world who contact me, who tweet at me, who send me Facebook messages,” she says, “I never anticipated that in a million years.” Movsesian became Armenian-famous, something that became fodder for a joke on the show after she rode on the “Discover Armenia” float in the 2016 Rose Parade.
While Movsesian has received a lot of attention for “Conan in Armenia,” she gives the credit for the episode’s success to others on the team. “The fact that they did it without having been part of the culture, to me, is really the success of the episode,” she says. “I think that, to me, was the most touching part of it.”